Seabed2030 ~ Executive Summary
About 71% of the Earth is covered by the World Ocean for which the bottom topography (bathymetry) is far less known than the surfaces of Mercury, Venus, Mars, and several planets’ moons, including our own.
Mapping through ocean water deeper than a few meters excludes the efficient use of electromagnetic waves such as radar and light, which forms the basis for methods used during terrestrial and extra-terrestrial mapping missions. While ocean surface height measured by satellites can be used to derive a coarse view of the ocean floor, it does not have sufficient resolution or accuracy for most marine or maritime activities, be it scientific research, navigation, exploration, shipping, resource extraction, fisheries or tourism.
Traditional bathymetric mapping techniques rely on acoustic mapping technologies deployed from surface or submerged vessels and require broad international coordination and collaboration towards data assimilation and synthesis.
In the opening address of the Forum for Future of Ocean Floor Mapping (FFOFM) in Monaco in June 2016, Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, set forth the initiative to partner with GEBCO to cooperatively work towards seeing 100% of the World Ocean mapped by 2030.
This initiative led to the formulation of The Nippon Foundation – GEBCO – Seabed 2030, a global project within the framework of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) with the focused goal of producing the definitive, high resolution bathymetric map of the entire World Ocean by the year 2030. GEBCO, with its two parent organizations the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has partnered with The Nippon Foundation to launch Seabed 2030, jointly driven by the strong motivation to empower the world to make policy decisions, use the ocean sustainably and undertake scientific research informed by a detailed understanding of the World Ocean floor.
Based on GEBCO’s successful experiences of working with Regional Mapping Projects, the structure of Seabed 2030 rests on the establishment of teams of experts at Regional Data Assembly and Coordination Centres (RDACCs) and a Global Data Assembly and Coordination Centre (GDACC).
The regional teams will be responsible for championing regional mapping activities as well as assembling and compiling bathymetric information within their prescribed region. The global team will be responsible for producing centralized GEBCO products and centralized data management for non-regionally sourced data. In ocean regions where strong mapping initiatives are already operational, Seabed 2030 will strive to avoid duplication and instead work towards fostering a close collaboration for the most efficient use of global resources.
This Road Map expands on the underlying motivation for undertaking the Seabed 2030 project, presents the perspective on ocean mapping from the forum held in Monaco 2016, provides an update on how much of the World Ocean is currently mapped, further
outlines the Seabed 2030 project structure and plan, and identifies challenges and milestones ahead.
6.0. Identified Challenges
6.1. Mapping the gaps
There is no doubt that the mapping goal of Seabed 2030 presents a significant challenge considering that our analysis in section 4 shows that ~970 years would be required to survey the completely un-mapped part of the World Ocean using one modern multibeam vessel. The estimated 970 years does not even account for the fact that the quality of the bathymetric data varies substantially and that significant portions of the ocean floor must be remapped to meet modern standards. Even if more bathymetric data exist than used in our analyses, the Seabed 2030 mapping goal can only be achieved if new field mapping projects are initiated by many parties using many vessels. Crowd sourcing has proved to be a very powerful way to continuously add to the mapped portion of the World Ocean. Olex™ and TeamSurv™ are two examples of companies that have shown how fishing vessels and small pleasure boats equipped with echo sounders are extraordinary resources able to constantly “map”. The key to get all to contribute and share their data has been that something must be offered in return for doing so. The return from Olex™ and TeamSurv™ has been in the form of providing the contributors with better maps that, for example,help fishermen improve their fishing, divers find better dive sites and recreational boaters avoid running aground. However, crowd sourced bathymetry is today only effective for mapping the shallow continental shelf waters where most of the fishing and leisure boats sail with sonars that are able to collect bathymetric data. There are also data quality issues with crowd sourced bathymetry, but the huge number of contributed soundings have, to some extent, helped to filter out the noise. The largest industry fishing vessels may have low frequency echo sounders that perhaps reach about 3000 m water depth, but practically no non-survey or research vessels have a full ocean depth echo sounders installed. Considering that 50% of the World Ocean is deeper than 3200m (Figure 6.1), more than half is excluded from the current “crowd.” But this would change if more vessels are equipped with deep water echo sounders. Crowd source bathymetry is a phenomenal resource that has huge potential.
6.2. Bathymetry from sensitive areas
There are several regions of the World Ocean where bathymetric information may not be easy to get for reasons that may be considered political, for example areas where disputes over countries’ territorial waters or exclusive economic zone (EEZ) exist. In other international regions of the ocean, the offshore oil and gas industry may not be willing to share bathymetric data collected for exploration purposes due to competitive reasons and/or client confidentiality. Furthermore, the depth and shape of the ocean floor are considered information of military strategic importance in some countries, and high-resolution bathymetry data are therefore classified and access is restricted by national laws. All this presents a major challenge for Seabed 2030, and capacity building will be critical for addressing it. The international network of scholars from the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO postgraduate programme on ocean bathymetry hosted by the University of New Hampshire, USA, will continue to become an important resource in addressing this challenge. This programme, which began in 2004, has developed a network of more than 78 students from all over the world who will be important advocates for Seabed 2030, particularly as they move into senior positions within their national and academic organizations. Providing outreach materials and clear messaging will be important to facilitate their efforts. We anticipate that as more data are contributed to Seabed 2030, and its products are broadly distributed and recognized, there will be an increased willingness of new groups to contribute data. A critical aspect of the strategy is to establish early adopters, who will help create systems, processes, messaging and peer pressure that will help and encourage others to eventually follow.
6.3. Keeping up with technology
Ensuring that our strategy evolves to make use of new computing technologies, e.g. web services, cloud storage and computing, is a challenge that all long-term project face. This will be addressed though ongoing complementary efforts of Seabed 2030 team members as well as through dialog and partnership with industry. The most critical step we can take is to make sure that our processes, products and services are forward-looking and that our efforts will be well-positioned to make use of new technologies as they become available.